PARIS — A question asked since the crash that took the lives of Oxford Hills teens Rebecca Mason and Logan Dam in 2012 has been: Who was driving?

On Monday, Jacob Skaff testified it was not him. The 2002 Subaru Impreza involved in the crash had a five-speed manual transmission, and he testified he doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift.

Skaff, 24, of South Paris testified on the fourth day of the double manslaughter trial in Oxford County Superior Court that he was in the passenger seat while defendant Kristina Lowe was driving. He was in that seat when she’d crashed the same car earlier in the evening and was there again during the fatal crash, he said.

Lowe, now 21, of West Paris is facing five felony charges in connection with the Jan. 7, 2012, crash on Route 219 in West Paris that killed 16-year-old Mason and 19-year-old Dam, both of West Paris. The charges include two counts of manslaughter, two counts of aggravated criminal operating under the influence and one count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Skaff said he doesn’t remember much about the fatal crash, which occurred in the early hours of Jan. 7, except that “we were flying and I saw darkness and trees. That’s all I saw,” he said, until he woke up inside the car. He said he remembers Lowe getting out on the driver’s side and he followed her since he couldn’t get out on the passenger side.

The people in the car had all been attending a party on Yeaton Lane in West Paris the night of Jan. 6, and after the crash Skaff said, “we immediately started making our way to Logan (Dam) and Michael’s (Henderson) trailer” where the party was, to get help.

During Friday’s testimony, during an audiotaped interview with Trooper Lauren Edstrom, Lowe could clearly be heard telling the officer that she was certain, and then only pretty certain, that Skaff had been driving and that after the wreck she had to push him out the driver’s side before following him out.

Lowe also told Edstrom that she and Skaff had spent time at the car after the wreck trying to help Mason and Dam. “We tried to feel in the back seat for them to get them out. Like we really did. Like we tried so hard to find them,” she was heard saying, “but we just couldn’t.” She then told Edstrom that she and Skaff sat at the car for 5 to 10 minutes waiting for someone to drive by before heading back to Yeaton Lane, where they knew their friends could call for help.

Skaff said that wasn’t true. Once they were both outside the car, he said, “we didn’t look back in the vehicle. I could tell there was no life in the vehicle,” so the two climbed up the embankment and headed straight back to the party house, he testified.

Asked by Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne whether he was aware that the two had walked past 24 to 25 houses along that route, a visibly nervous Skaff said he’d been aware but stopping for help was something “we didn’t choose to take advantage of. We didn’t stop.”

In his cross-examination of Skaff, defense attorney James Howaniec also asked him why the two didn’t stop.

“I knew it was really bad,” Skaff said of the crash. “Adrenaline was taking over at that point” and since they didn’t know anyone on that road but did know where “Michael and Logan’s trailer was, we decided to go there.”

In the 24 hours immediately after the accident Lowe told two police officers, an emergency medical technician and a nurse that she had not been driving the car, but a number of eyewitnesses at the party testified Monday that they saw her get into the driver’s side of the car.

Skaff, who placed himself in the passenger seat, Lowe in the front, Mason in the back seat behind the driver and Dam sitting behind him, was granted full immunity from prosecution just before he took the stand.

During a brief hearing before Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford on Monday afternoon, Skaff’s attorney, Ted Dilworth, told the court that he had advised his client not to answer questions on the grounds that whatever he said might incriminate him. In order to hear his testimony, District Attorney Norm Croteau decided to offer Skaff immunity from prosecution, and the court granted that order when it was clear Skaff would not cooperate without that protection.

According to Skaff’s testimony, he purchased two bottles of Jagermeister liqueur hours before the crash and brought those bottles to the rented trailer that Dam shared with Michael Henderson and Roland Young on Yeaton Lane. One of the bottles, he said, had been purchased at Lowe’s request.

During Lowe’s recorded interview with Edstrom, she mentioned that she had offered to pay for one of the bottles “because it is an expensive drink,” she said, and the boys had been “complaining because they just gotten their checks and they were wasting all their money or whatever.”

Lowe said she worked full time as a CNA then and told the others “if you need me to throw down or something I can, no problem.”

Police later recovered an unbroken bottle of Jagermeister inside the car at the crash site.

Skaff, who was 22 at the time he bought the liquor, said he got the money for the purchases from his friend, Donovan Dow, who was 24. The men had to make two stops for the alcohol because the Irving store where they first stopped had only one bottle so they made a second stop at the Bethel Rite Aid to buy another.

Skaff testified he and others, including Lowe, passed the bottles around at the party and drank from them, although he doesn’t know how much Lowe drank.

At some point during the party, Skaff said he and Lowe got into the car Lowe had driven there, the 2002 Subaru Impreza which was owned by Dakota Larson, and Lowe “was doing ‘donuts’ in the yard and hit” either a tree or a stump “in the middle of the yard.”

All of the people who attended the party and who have testified so far have each described this accident, and each has said Lowe laughed it off and told them she would tell Larson she hit a deer. The youngest person at the party, then 14-year-old Baylee Heikkinen, testified Monday that she thought Lowe backed into the stump, but others testified Lowe hit the stump on the front driver’s side, possibly breaking a headlamp.

Some time after the first crash, Skaff said, he, Lowe and Dam piled into the Subaru and planned to meet Mason back at her house. She had driven her father’s truck to the party, which she wasn’t supposed to do, and wanted to get the truck back before her father found out.

After picking Mason up, the four stopped at The Big Apple on Route 26 in West Paris for cigarettes and gas, Skaff said. He went inside and bought three or four cans of Four Loko, an alcoholic beverage, just before midnight, he said.

A cashier testified Friday that Skaff bought six cans at 12:05 a.m.

“We got back in the car in the same seats,” Skaff said, with Lowe in the driver’s seat and him in the passenger seat.

The crash occurred minutes later.

When the two walked back into the party, Skaff said, “There was a lot of panic at the house” and he and Dow decided to leave before police arrived.

Dow testified to the same sequence of events earlier Monday.

Beauchesne asked Skaff why he left, knowing the police were on the way, and Skaff said, “I panicked. I didn’t know what to do.”

He said spent the rest of the night at Dow’s house and went to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway in the morning for treatment of five broken vertebrae, a concussion and a large gash behind his right ear, which he said was cut when the “roof on the passenger side collapsed” on his head.

Monday was the first time Skaff said he had seen Lowe since the accident.

When Skaff entered the courtroom Monday, Lowe cried and continued to through his testimony.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard from party-goers Alicia Plummer, now 21, of South Paris, her brother, Nicholas Plummer, now 20, of Norway, Dow, now 26, of South Paris, Heikkinen and Michael Henderson, 20, who still lives at 12 Yeaton Lane.

Each one of the eyewitnesses had a different timeline about when the party started and who arrived when. All but one witness said they thought Lowe was drunk when she arrived.

Nicholas Plummer, who had been at the trailer since Jan. 5, said Lowe “seemed sober when she showed up, but was drunk later.” He was drinking and testified he remembers seeing Lowe drinking.

“She was visibly intoxicated,” Dow said of Lowe, calling her loud and rambunctious. He never saw her drink anything, but said he was aware the Jagermeister was being passed around.

A blood test taken several hours after the accident showed Lowe’s blood alcohol content was .04 percent, lower than the legal limit of .08 percent. She also tested positive for marijuana.

After he watched Lowe spin the car out in the yard, Dow said he decided to leave the party because he didn’t want her to hit his car. “I didn’t like what was going on there, so I left,” he said, and went back later.

Dow said he was there when Lowe walked back into the trailer after the crash. He said he remembers her saying, “’I’m pretty sure people are dead. I’m not going to jail. Don’t call 911.’”

Dow said he took Skaff back to his house to make sure he was safe and that he got medical attention.

Howaniec pressed each of the eyewitnesses on the statements they made immediately after the accident because none of them said anything about Lowe drinking or texting and driving.

All the young people testified Monday that they were upset and weren’t able to accurately tell what happened until much later.

Heikkinen, who is a junior at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, seemed distraught and reluctant to be on the stand. She wasn’t even aware Lowe was in the courtroom until Beauchesne asked her to point her out.

Mason and Heikkinen had been friends since elementary school and Mason had spent the afternoon before the accident at Heikkinen’s house. Heikkinen had wanted Mason to stay overnight, but Mason’s father wouldn’t let her, Heikkinen testified, so Heikkinen decided to go to the party at Henderson’s house instead.

She testified that she remembers Lowe showing up at the party and acting “weird,” but doesn’t remember seeing her drink any alcohol or use marijuana.

Heikkinen said she was surprised to see Mason show up in her father’s truck, especially since she knew her friend’s father hadn’t wanted her to stay out overnight. She also said she remembers that Dam, who was Mason’s boyfriend, didn’t think it was a very good idea for Mason to be there with the truck.

Heikkinen couldn’t offer any information about who left the party when or who was driving, but said she remembered some time later that Lowe “ran through the door. Her jacket was all bloody and I asked her what happened.”

Lowe kept saying she didn’t know, Heikkinen said.

“A few minutes later Jake (Skaff) walked in. His head was bleeding really bad,” Heikkinen said.

Lowe was really cold, Heikkinen testified, so she helped take her wet pants off and put shorts on. She helped wrap Lowe in a blanket and rubbed her back to soothe her, all the time asking what happened.

Heikkinen, who was 14 years old on the night of the accident, said Lowe “just said she was texting and driving and that Logan tried to correct the wheel but he couldn’t.”

“I kept asking where Becca and Logan were and she couldn’t say,” Heikkinen said.

Heikkinen said she called 911, even though Lowe “was telling me not to call. She said ‘no, no, no, don’t call,’ but I still did, obviously.”

Heikkinen gave two statements to police, and defense attorney James Howaniec asked her why neither one of the statements contained any reference to the fact that Lowe told her she’d been texting.

“I was so worked up,” Heikkinen said, when she wrote the first statement on the night of the crash. She said she didn’t know why police didn’t include that fact in her official statement, even though she remembers telling them.

Megan Plummer, another party-goer who testified on Friday, and her younger sister, Alicia Plummer, who testified Monday morning, both said they remember telling police that Lowe said she was texting and driving, but that information is not in their respective police statements.

Alicia Plummer, who was working as a preschool teacher in Yarmouth in early 2012, went to the party at the invitation of her sister and brother. She said she remembers Lowe was there when she arrived with her sister and their friend Mark Zeegers, 24, of Oxford.

Asked  by Beauchesne what she remembered about Lowe’s behavior, Alicia Plummer said Lowe was talking fast, walking around fast, her eyes were red and she was sipping from a bottle of Jagermeister. Plummer said she remembers not wanting to talk with Lowe, who she found annoying, and that Lowe was drunk. “She just didn’t stop talking,” Plummer said.

Plummer said she also remembers Dam and Skaff going outside with Lowe to go to the store.

Beauchesne asked Plummer who was driving when the group left, and Plummer said Lowe was. “She refused to let anyone else drive because it was her friend’s car,” Plummer said.

About 45 minutes to an hour later, Lowe and then Skaff came back to the party, Plummer testified. At first, Lowe said she didn’t know what happened, but several minutes Lowe said, “’I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I was texting. Logan tried to stop it but he couldn’t,’” Plummer said.

When Lowe heard Plummer had also called 911, Plummer said Lowe “asked if we were leaving and if we were could we take her with us. I told her no one was going anywhere,” she testified.

The trial is expected to continue through midweek.


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